D Is For Demisexual

D Is For Demisexual

Explaining demisexuality and related identities to a society that just doesn't get us yet.

You may have never heard of demisexuality, and I wouldn't blame you. It's not a well-known sexuality, and it's not talked about as much as other sexualities might be. In fact, many of the sexualities underneath the asexual umbrella are largely not discussed and frequently misunderstood. Though I've written about demisexuality before, I want to clarify what it is and what it can mean. This is my understanding of the label, and it in no way represents what it means for all demisexuals. I use "we" in a way to mean myself and other demisexuals that have a similar understanding and expression of this identity. Something fantastic about human sexuality is that it is expressed uniquely depending on the person's personality and life experiences. It makes for a diverse scale. However, these are some of the key traits and points that I think help in understanding demisexuality as a whole.

1. "Demisexual" literally means "half sexual."

"Demi" is a prefix meaning half. For example, you may have heard of a "demigod." This alone explains some of the traits and foundation of the sexuality. Demisexual is halfway between sexual and asexual. It is, however, considered to be on the asexual scale. This may be because the sexual scale inherently excludes demisexuality. Because demisexuals are by nature not "fully sexual," they are placed under the asexual category. There's another umbrella term that I prefer, which is gray-ace or gray-a. Demisexual does not indicate a certain gender preference. One can be demiheterosexual, demihomosexual, demibisexual, etc.

2. Typically, demisexuality is characterized by a lack of primary attraction.

By "lack," I don't mean to imply that we are lacking something as humans and there's something amiss with us, more that we simply do not possess something considered "normal," but that's OK! In the current understanding of human sexual attraction, there is a primary attraction and a secondary attraction. Primary attraction is initial sexual attraction formed based on physical traits. This means you're sexually attracted to someone because you find them physically appealing. Secondary attraction is sexual attraction formed based on an emotional bond and the individual's personality. While demisexuals might find someone objectively attractive, often sexual attraction is not primarily formed. We often form sexual attraction on a secondary basis, after we have emotionally connected with the person. For more information on this, visit this cool little site.

3. Demisexuals do not automatically find sex repulsive.

Often, any disinterest in having sex just for sex is socially treated as a disgust toward sex. This just isn't accurate for many demisexuals. In fact, we have both primary and secondary sexual desire. This means that when we desire sex, it can be for emotional and physical satisfaction and also to conceive children. Demisexuals usually develop sexual desire under specific circumstances, mainly through a strong connection or emotional bond.

4. Sexual attraction can be separate from romantic attraction.

This also applies to understanding asexuality. It is important in trying to negotiate asexuality and demisexuality within a society fixated on sex. Many think that individuals under the asexual umbrella do not ever feel attracted to any human being on any level. This could be true for some people, but it's important to remember that it is rare to be 100 percent any sexual identity, asexuality and demisexuality included. Asexuals and demisexuals can certainly have crushes and be romantically attracted to others, even love someone romantically. They can want to date and, sometimes, have sex. It is simply that their sexual attraction functions differently and independently from romantic attraction. An asexual or demisexual might be perfectly happy dating for a long time, or indefinitely, without sex. To that end, that means someone can be both demisexual and demiromantic, simply demisexual, simply demiromantic, or other combinations of sexual and romantic identities.

5. This is not a choice.

Though many understand that identities like gay and lesbian are not conscious choices, sometimes this is forgotten when applied to demisexuality. Just because we might reserve sexual activity for people we know on a deep level and emotionally connect with, it does not mean we are overly-religious, arrogant or trying to make anyone feel ashamed about being more willing to have sex. It also does not mean we are contradicting feminist ideals and placing "too much" value in virginity. I simply lack sexual attraction to someone I do not emotionally connect with, and there is no motivation or benefit for me to engage in sexual activity without this bond. I will feel nothing. It does not make me a better or worse person than you. This is just how I feel. I can't help it.

6. We are not unhappy with life.

More specifically, our sexuality does not make us inherently unhappy with life and the world. Demisexuals aren't freaks moping in the corner just because they're not having sex. Demisexuals often find satisfaction in good conversation and company, hobbies and other areas of life. We don't need sex. We don't feel a hole in our souls or feel like we're missing something. It's with outside factors that we might feel that way. Sometimes, this society can pressure demisexuals into believing they are missing out on something or should want/be having sex because it's what is "normal" or expected. This can be severely damaging to self-esteem and confidence. It alienates individuals from their peers and causes a lot of frustration and pain.

7. We are not "weird."

Well, we may be weird. But not simply because we are demisexual, and not in the hurtful way this comment is meant. Though I may use what's "normal" to explain how demisexuals differ from others on the sexual scale, this is no way means we are "abnormal" or "weird." Calling demisexuals, asexuals or others on the asexual scale "weird" is to write them off as "other" and not able to be understood. Simple research into demisexuality and reading explanations written by someone part of that identity (like this article!) can lead to understanding if the person is willing enough. It is unproductive to simply give up and call us "weird." Just because you might not get it, that does not mean there is something wrong with that person. Perhaps try asking about what you don't comprehend, as long as the individual wants to be asked and it is a respectful question.

8. Don't blindly say you understand.

Going off of the above point, it's also problematic to just say you understand without really absorbing what demisexuality means, particularly in a romantic context. Agreeing to date someone who's demisexual and claiming to be OK with it without knowing what it actually entails can be damaging for everyone involved. Specifically, the demisexual individual can begin to believe they are accepted when in fact, the other person is not OK with not having sex until the demisexual has established a strong emotional bond—or not OK with the fact that the demisexual might need things to move slowly. This can lead to messy breakups and hurt feelings. It's best to look into demisexuality and what it can mean to date a demisexual and then decide whether you would like to pursue the person. Listening is imperative.

9. Patience is a virtue.

Personally, and possibly for other demisexuals, my emotions regarding sexual activity, attraction and dating are fragile and slower to develop. This can make some demisexuals feel as though they will never find someone to be with because our sexuality often requires getting to know the person really well before knowing if we want to have sex. With the nature of most modern relationships, a lot of people are not willing to wait around to see if someone is attracted to them sexually or even romantically. They want answers quickly. And that's understandable, but a reason why demisexuals and asexuals might feel isolated from other people in respect to romantic relationships and sex. My feelings, for example, are easily ruined if a relationship escalates too quickly. Many of us might need someone who is willing to be patient.

10. Sexualities don't usually function in absolutes.

Though there are certainly key indicators of a demisexuality identity, like a lack of primary attraction, not all demisexuals are the same. Not all behave or regard sex and relationships in the ways I have outlined in this list. There is difference from demisexual to demisexual, and same goes for others on the asexual scale. Asexuals are not amoebas or plants, they are humans, and they can be romantically and sexually attracted to people. It just might be extremely rare. Even if they don't experience those attractions, it is not helpful to equate them to non-human entities. Humans aren't defined as human only because of an existence of sexual and romantic attraction. Demisexuals are not weirdos or celibate, and they can develop sexual and romantic attraction at different rates or different frequencies. What qualifies as a "strong emotional bond" varies person to person. People can have instances where they act outside of their sexual identity or have "exceptions." Behavior does not define sexuality, and sexual identities do not restrict the person to a certain set of behaviors. It's all about what label the person feels most comfortable using. It should never be about how "well" they perform the textbook definition of their sexuality.

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Representation Really Does Matter

Here's how one episode of 'Degrassi' changed my life forever.

I was watching "Degrassi" when I came across something that I truly felt changed me. Never before had I watched something that I truly felt I was able to relate to in regards to my gender identity. I had even spoken before with my therapist and felt moderately uncomfortable with it. I never truly felt like I could be myself or be comfortable in the skin I am in.

This changed one day when watching an episode of "Degrassi." On the screen, a young student was presented. Their name was Yael and I suddenly felt more connected with Yael than I had with any other character I had ever seen on television or cinema before. It was almost surreal to see the screen before me. It felt unnatural, almost like the person I was looking at from the comfort of behind my screen was actually me. I felt like I was watching my own life, or rather a representation of what my life could be if I dared to be who I truly wanted to be.

Yael first starts in her cisgender identity so I will be referring to her as in female terms for the beginning part of this article. As she begins to explore her journey in her non-binary/gender fluid identity she begins to feel more comfortable with they/them terminology.

At the beginning of the season, Yael starts to realize a change. Her breasts have grown bigger and this is a part of her body that she has a lot of trouble coping with. The beginning scene shows her evidently wearing ill-fitting undergarments against her rather tight shirt. She speaks in intimate detail with her friend about how this makes her feel and her friend tells her she most likely needs a bra that is better fitting for her. They go shopping and she is obviously incredibly uncomfortable doing so.

I felt every single emotion Yael was feeling during this time. As a matter of fact, as the episode progressed, I felt a lump in my throat. I heard once that maybe when you die a screen will show all the events of your life played out before you and you can watch them like a movie. This is exactly how I felt when I began watching this episode. I felt like I was watching events in my life or perhaps even getting a glimpse into my future. I have felt all the things Yael was feeling before, but I was never really able to properly put it into words. I didn't have any characters to point at and say "see? I'm like them."

When the cross-dressing and drag community first started up, it was grossly misunderstood. People thought drag queens were perverts or some sort of twisted animals. As shows like "Ru Paul's Drag Race" became popularized, awareness of what the drag community was and ultimately, LGBTQ, in general, became a lot more evident. You could pull up a video on Youtube and show it to someone if they didn't understand what you did as a drag artist. There was finally something that you could point to and say, "Yep, that's me."

As someone struggling with gender identity, I can really and truly say I've never experienced that before. I've never had a character that I could look at and explain my feelings with. I've never had anyone to look at or relate to or to help guide me in whatever direction I needed to go. However, as I sat alone in my room watching a show that had been recommended to me, I felt like I had been recognized. I was no longer overcome with isolation.

Yael buys a binder from a store and begins binding. Soon after, her boyfriend realizes that she has chosen not to shave her armpits or legs and is distraught. For the year of 2016, I decided I did not want to shave. The backlash I received was very similar to what Yael received in the episode both with her boyfriend and with the guys she hangs out with. She inquires why she needs to shave and the answer was an ignorant one that I have received an almost uncountable amount of times in my life, "You're a girl."

Just writing that made me groan.

I can almost hear the indignant, monotonous voice it is so often said in as well. A vast majority of my life has been spent with guys and Yael shares this in common with me. At a certain age, I began being told constantly by boys what I was and was not allowed to do. "You're a girl. You shave your legs. Ladies first. Girls are more sensitive. It's weird having a girl here."

My personal favorite was whenever I played Xbox Live and the pandemonium that ensued when a real-life girl began playing with them. I always felt sad, different, and outcast. The feeling was one that was often difficult to describe. However, I watched Yael go through all the things I had gone through for the vast majority of her teenage years.

Yael liked makeup. She did her hair and overall seemed like a feminine individual, however, she had extreme body dysphoria especially when it came to her chest. I felt exactly how she felt. She wore a better-fitted bra and the boys began to notice. The insecurity she experienced ran rampant. I felt for her. I really did. I watched it and realized how many times I had fallen victim to objectification and how it had only thrust me deeper into my body dysphoria. After she begins binding, she truly starts to feel how she should feel.

"I'm gender fluid." She says to her boyfriend and watches as his face falls.

"I like girls." He replies. She pauses for a moment, looking at him.

"I thought you liked me."

The truth behind these words was almost too much to bear.

I've always had to believe that whoever loves me will truly love me for me. As time has progressed, I have looked into my options of top surgery. I realize most men who identify as heterosexuals are quite attached to the idea of female anatomy, specifically breasts and not having them might make me less desirable.

However, I am also aware of the fact that my happiness is to be prioritized above all else. This is my body and it really and truly should be my choice. This insecurity that is rooted deeply within me is one I watched Yael experience, proving once again that I am not alone.

Yael cuts her hair to a length she finds comfortable which is yet another fantasy I have had. I see myself in the future with a shaved head and high fitting clothes that reveal nothing because there will be no lumps of fat on my chest, nothing to hold me down. I see that vision of myself. The only difference between Yael and I is that Yael actually took steps in order to be that vision of herself that she visualized. I have not. However, one day I would like to. One day I see myself being the person I've always desired to be.

I had never seen representation like that in TV or movies before. I have always felt so entirely alone in how I feel. The idea of be-ridding my breasts is one that almost everyone in my life has found to be so incredibly ludicrous, but as I watched Yael's journey, I saw that it wasn't. It was something that was completely ethical and something that people all over the world experience. It's just a matter of putting your story into the world so others can benefit and learn from it as well.

So I am Lizzie Bowen. I am gender queer and the concept of this was one it took me a long time to grasp. I wear makeup and do my hair, but wear big sweatshirts so that my figure can be hidden. I am not ashamed of my body or who I am, but I am ashamed that I feel the need to hide. I am ashamed that I would rather be uncomfortable in my own skin than to make changes in my life to better myself and be free of my dysphoria.

LGBTQ representation and really, representation, in general, is so so important. There are kids, teens, adults, and individuals of all ages who have never had their identity acknowledged. They live their lives in silence suffering, thinking that no one else in the world feels the way they feel. I was one of those people until I turned on an episode of "Degrassi" on a quiet weekend. No matter what your situation or identity is, know there is someone in the world who shares it. You are not alone.

You never are. Thanks, Yael, for teaching me that.

Cover Image Credit: Unsplash

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9 Things 'Type A' People Know All Too Well

To all my fellow 'try-hards.'

“You are SO Type A.”

This phrase is one that people like to say about those of us who seem a little “too organized,” try a little "too hard," or tend to be "overly ambitious" and driven. At times, this reference can sound a bit derogatory, but it’s how people like us excel in our lives and what sets us apart. Am I right my fellow “Type A-ers”?

I bet you know all too well how familiar these things are:

1.You write absolutely everything down.

Thank goodness for your planner.

2. You’re always in a rush.

And you’ve never really been a fan of slow walkers or talkers.

3. 'Competition' is your middle name.

And 'winning' tends to be your last.

4. You have a million different to-do lists.

What would you do without post its, scribbles, and reminders on your phone?

5. You plan out every hour of your day.

Including bathroom breaks!

6. You don't waste any time.

Multi-tasking while waiting for other things comes second nature to you.

7. You're constantly stressed.

Even when there's no need to be.

8. You have an insane work ethic.

Including the inability to go to sleep until you get everything done.

9. You're a perfectionist in EVERYTHING you do.

Because giving anything other than 100% is unacceptable to you.

Cover Image Credit: Pixabay

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